You must be thinking of the past, when recognition programs existed because some companies actually valued their employees. As vijaynats said, it's not blatantly about the money, nothing else. And I'm not talking from the regular emps, either; I'm talking from top management. The motto has become 'Get all you can out of them before they leave,' and nothing more.
The startups? Excitement comes from working on something new and fresh and hoping it's the next 'killer app.' I've seen that same excitement from really small companies today (which I'm not a part of right now), so I know it exists.
Recognition and fairness go a long way toward building enthusiasm. In the meantime, I stay enthusiastic from learning new software, trying new ways to do things, and remembering that each breath I take is a reason to be happy.
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